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"Europe: Yet another perspective, on the things you probably know"?

Arguments – or phrases – for both the remain or the leave campaign for the coming weeks referendum are seldom explained clearly enough, although we know the tunes.

Wils HuntArguments – or phrases – for both the remain or the leave campaign for the coming weeks referendum are seldom explained clearly enough, although we know the tunes. Useful ‘spin-doctor’ phraseologies are repeatedly used in television debates, radio broadcasts and advertising campaigns to be certain that the listenership heard and remembers what the speaker has told them. Notwithstanding this, being so far along in the campaign means we surely know what the songs are – so I wont be shedding new light, for instance.

Johnson, on the ITV EU referendum programme, 9th June, repeated the phrase “Take Back Control”, or the extended “Let us Take Back Control of our Democracy”, usefully manifesting the aforementioned claim. Osborne similarly repeats the same type of rhetoric – apart from supporting the Remain side – on Andrew Neil’s interview aired on BBC Wednesday 8th June, about the single market, with “Lose Control”, or the extended “Lose Control of our economy”. It’s attack politics. In fact, I don’t think anyone doubts the two of them would even class them as truly, well formed arguments.

The phraseologies are not exclusive either, just ‘YouTube’ Farage, IDS, Hannan, Johnson or Cameron, Khan, Osborne or whoever takes your fancy and they will have at some point uttered these words of abstract assurance – but both sides surely cannot be so sure as to condemn the opposing vote in the process of promoting their own? Not 6 months ago, The PM and Chancellor were re-negotiating terms with Donald Tusk, and boasting about the fact the UK could manage well without being in Europe. Just as Johnson was 100% backing the Prime Minister to be able to achieve the reforms wanted for the country.

They are fall-backs, openers, and closers to any form of debate, question or public speaking a politician could think of, making their work much easier in terms of successful campaigning (if the context of campaigning is to get the word out, regardless of what the words consist). But this type of campaigning truly, for the voters, provides no gain as to what side of the argument we want to align – if you are not aligned already. Not too long ago, the ‘unsure’ camp was a much larger section in this referendum, not for ideological reasons, but pragmatic and purposeful details that, with the given rhetoric, could not be smoothed.

Uncertainty over what the unelected part of the EU is, for example (“Take back Control”), or uncertainty over the economics of either side not being sufficiently covered (“Lose Control”), did not help and was not bettered by this rhetoric. Bouncing between one camp insulting the other for various reasons, and all reports/figures released/mentioned being commented on as ‘biased’, or inaccurate. An example of this bias is from our very own HM Treasury, who released 2 reports: one short term implications of a Brexit and one long term, but even these have been scrutinised by Andrew Neil (and others) as being written assuming no governmental interference would occur, skewing figures greatly.

The Commission is the most controversial governmental sector of the EU, being because appointed officials, by the council (agreed by the MEPs), are not elected. Brexiteers like Farage, Hannan and others all raise this point, to usually a consensus amongst the audience that are listening - testimony to the importance the individual denotes to sovereignty. However, the process of appointment is never really addressed, and in fact the Council of Ministers (the heads of states: Cameron, Hollande, Merkel etc.) propose individuals they think are suitable to represent their countries interests within the EU to the EU Parliament, being officials we do elect (although with a democratic deficit; 35% UK turnout last time round (EU Parliament)) who then have to approve these proposed commissioners before it is then proposed finally to the commission president, who finally has to agree. We (the UK) have Jonathon Hill, who was proposed by Cameron to the EU Parliament, and then accepted and in turn suggested to the Commission (his acceptance has its own controversy however, as Junker was reported ‘suggesting’ the types of people he would accept to the UK) as the role of…. European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.

Hence, having the proposition done by the heads of each state is – as the formation of the cabinet is – through some loose way democratic. So with “Taking back control”, we are removing ourselves from this.

Further eluded to through this rhetoric (hence its success), is “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” that would eliminate most national sovereignty in the long term, centralizing them instead in a European super-state… I add here that this is not necessarily a negative thing, as not all powers will be surrendered, and the body that replaces it may not be negative. The process of this centralisation moreover is not clear, as it is transient in formation. However it is written in the Treaty of The Functioning of the European Union (Updated in 2009, but still constant from 1958 and Rome) to happen, and hence is not reform-able.

These arguments have been used as the Leave’s rhetoric because of the certainty of the points. It is hard to argue against something that is true.

The Single Market is to the Remain camp as the commission is to the Leave, a very solid argument that is more often than not, won.

Naturally, being part of the EU would allow us access to the market of the EU that not only withholds the ‘four freedoms’, but also gives access to a place having $16,000,000,000,000 GDP (second largest in the world), a consumer market of 500 million/growing consumers (the largest in the world), and all the small business incentives that the SBA 2011 framework established, and that a lot of SME’s in the UK rely (In fact, 99% of all UK business is SME, according to Parliaments website). Plus many, many other benefits.

However, unlike the certainty/truth of the Leave rhetoric, the Remain is up for debate as the economic future to the EU is uncertain. Figures have suggested in July Greece will go back into recession, amongst other economic disparities. 

Theoretically the single market offers through freer trade; more competition, better resource allocation, improved services and products, specialisation and hence, growth. These benefits are arguably however offset through allowing membership to be extended continuously, giving no real per-capita benefit, and focusing only on the macro-environment.

Theory aside, and history as evidence, the single market is a ‘bandage economy’. Previous reforms suggest that to correct what was previously incorrect, either integration or reform must occur.

In 1985, when the EEC was starting to lack the growth and investment needed to successfully continue, the Delors commission, through the Cockfield White Paper, identified 300 measures the EU should meet, in order to create a further integrated market, to resolve the lack of growth and investment that had materialised previously. Through the Delors Report (the Werner Report before that, but no one could agree on this), a three-stage process was proposed for permanent currency integration. This report led to the Maastricht treaty, the Amsterdam treaty, and many subsequent treaties, attempting to fulfil the Delors commission’s intent – Jacques Delors himself known for his forceful presidency, and Single Market blueprint (this man was unelected).

The EU has gone through and achieved what was needed to fix what in 1985 the EEC, the Cockield White paper, had identified as issues. Further to this the three-stage plan put in place by the Delors Commission has to come to fruition – albeit hurried when in 1992 the French economy forced the Exchange Rate Mechanism morphing. To only be struck in 2008 by more issues, after years of undeniable growth.

The US has a lot to answer for in terms of the sub-prime mortgage market, that infected the EU through Iceland, but internal issues were noted. Greece for example, could not deflate their currency when in crisis, and were hence bailed out (pointing to the fiscal/monetary policy issue). Further to this because of the lack of economic productivity in places like Greece, or Spain, Portugal, etc. a Germancentric and Southern periphery were established where movements of labour/financial capital headed to the motherland, and left the other areas in shambles for only foreign investors to fix through falling property markets.

Again, like in 1985, reforms were carried out, for further integration through the European Banking Union, the suggestion of fiscal union, and more expansionism, to – as previously stated – offset growth with expansion.

The single market therefore, although a lot more complex and colourful with its history, has a tendency to reform when broken, and expand to fix.

The rhetoric of the Remain side therefore, is based much more largely on uncertain – or at least arguable – points. Whereas what the leave side have working in their favour, is that their rhetoric is at least suggestive to an argument they are certain to win – testament to its truth.

Writing this piece, I realised how unsure, people are about this decision. Although – and I made the distinction earlier – ideologically everyone can have a strong viewpoint, when it comes to the details like whether we can economically benefit from remaining, or leaving, or whether our immigration will lessen if we leave, or increase if we stay, no one can know. Subjective perspectives can speculate, but never be – or claim to be – right.



  • Date published: 17th June 2016
  • Written by: Wils Hunt



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